Palestinian Unity: Progress and Pitfalls, Part 1

The preliminary deal struck in Mecca this week for a Palestinian unity government was greeted with a good deal of fanfare and a lot of questions. First and foremost among those questions was whether the deal would be “acceptable” to Israel and the United States and be adequate to lift the economic blockade those two countries have imposed on the Palestinians since Hamas’ election last year.wmid09.jpg

As was the case with the Prisoners’ Agreement last year, the question misses the point.

The primary goal of the unity agreement was just that–to create Palestinian political unity and to end the horrible fighting that has marred the Gaza Strip (and to a much lesser degree, the West Bank) in recent weeks.

That’s not to suggest that the US-Israel reaction was not a significant factor, but it wasn’t the primary one.

Under this agreement, Hamas and Fatah will each have 12 representatives in the 25-person Palestinian cabinet. The 25th will be a bone of contention and could derail the agreement.

That 25th position is the Minister of Interior, who has a great deal of control (along with President Mahmoud Abbas) over the security forces. The post is supposed to be appointed by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minster, but is supposed to be an independent person from neither party, who will also meet with Abbas’ approval.

Contrary to some initial reports, there is also no agreement on the disposition of Hamas’ militia forces. It was at first thought they would begin a process of being absorbed into the overall Palestinian security apparatus, but this has not yet been agreed to.

These are important sticking points, and could well derail the entire agreement if they are not settled. But balancing that is the fact that both Haniyeh and Abbas are increasingly being blamed for the continuing internal Palestinian violence, and it will serve neither of them well if that fighting resumes.

Abbas in particular has realized that the fighting needs to stop. His American support has further tarnished his image and has created a perception in the Occupied Territories that he is doing the US’ work for it in trying to further de-stabilize the Hamas government. This is why he is now accepting the unity government he rejected a year ago.

Still, even if the unity government is formed, that doesn’t guarantee that it will be able to stop the violence in Gaza completely. People living in Gaza are destitute, frustrated and largely hopeless at the moment. The same security forces that would, whatever the arrangement, be charged with imposing order have, to varying degrees, been involved in the fighting. Many lives have been lost in recent weeks, and that is going to leave many family members angry and some will want revenge, a formula all too familiar in Gaza.

Additionally, while mainstream media has understandably focused almost exclusively on the Hamas-Fatah clashes, some of the violence has to do with other political, local or family rivalries. All of this means that stopping the violence is not so easy as just signing a piece of paper and rearranging governmental bureaucracy.

I’ll deal with the question of the international reaction to the Mecca Agreement in Part 2 of this piece. I’ll conclude here by saying that even if the unity government is successfully cobbled together, this will not mean the end of the Fatah-Hamas rivalry. While Fatah has been forced to compromise here, it is sure to continue to seek ways to restore its former position as leader of the Palestinian national movement. In this, it will be supported by the US and Israel, both overtly and covertly. While Hamas will share power, it remains in control of the Legislative Council and an equal partner in the Cabinet. The US, Israel and others will continue to work to see that Hamas cannot function in that role.

The unity agreement is a positive step for the Palestinians. But it is not a panacea.

12 thoughts on “Palestinian Unity: Progress and Pitfalls, Part 1

  1. “Fatah” {translation from Arabic to English}:
    “Conquest through Holy-war (Jihad)”
    (It does not mean “Liberation” through Holy-war).
    Mr. Arafat would lie to the “Western” media and governments as to his intensions and the next day, be preaching jihad and martyrdom, before a school of pre-teenagers in Ramalah.
    Mr. Abbas, who’s family willingly departed “Palestine” in the mid/late 1940’s with their wealth intact, has equally been lying to his own people—as to his militant intensions. Of course, that situation had its days numbered.
    Here is the solution to the entire mess:
    Jordan comes in from one side and Egypt from the other. Before the morning newspaper gets printed, there is no more Palestinian Authority and no more conflict with Israel.
    Questions . . . ? Anyone . . . . ? Buhler? Buhler??

  2. 1) Where does Israel maintain that it has the right to exist?

    2) Does Israel likewise recognize the right of a Palestinian state to exist?

  3. John Baker:
    You wrote:
    “Where does Israel maintain that it has the right to exist?
    Does Israel likewise recognize the right of a Palestinian state to exist?”
    Re:
    Israel’s right to statehood can be found in the following:
    a) The Jewish nation maintains a legitimate land claim that, while it may sound far-fetched to a culture that was hunting witches as recently as a few hundred years ago, is both legitimate and legal to those who had their homeland confiscated. The Hebrew nation had a functioning an some would assert modern legal / judicial system as long ago as 800-BC. According to Max Dimont (“Jews, God and history”), this system strongly resembled our modern system in many respects, such as:
    i) The presumption of innocence
    ii) The right to an attorney
    iii) Separation of religion from the Judiciary.
    b) Israel’s MODERN rights to statehood stem from International Treaty law established after WW1 (Pls see: http://english.katif.net/index.php?sub=2&id=1824 ) and from the later, far more modest language of the United Nations, following WW2 in 1947.
    c) Israel has always been willing to accommodate a “Palestinian-Arab” nation as its neighbor and Mr. Shimon Perez has elaborated many times that he personally tried to convince the “Grand Mufti” Al Hussieni to “live and let live” (in 1947) and could not understand why he was unwilling to do so. This is the same Nazi allied Mufti, who had led decades of attacks and massacres against Jewish civilians, in the years between 1920-1947.
    Nonetheless, it should be noted for the record that unlike the Jews, who have a distinct and unique culture, history, language and religion, there is no uniqueness about anything that the Palestinian-Arabs have. They are fully indistinguishable from their brothers and sisters across several borders. They speak the same language, eat the same foods, listen to the same music, wear the same clothing, practice the same religion and so forth, down to the molecular level. Moreover, “Palestine” was never a nation in the history of the world, while, Israel / Judah / Judea was a proud nation that existed for 12 centuries before being confiscated and cleared of its rightful and indigenous inhabitants, between the years of 150-BC and 150-CE. Some Palestinian-Arab leaders will claim decendancy from the “Philistines” but this is a total contrivance. The Philistines were Greek and Cypriot, not Arab-Semites, they were killed off by the Arab Babylonians in 600-BC and besides, their nation was geographically where the Gaza strip today sits.
    Have a nice day.

  4. Israel’s right to statehood…

    Yes, but where exactly? In other words, isn’t Israel demanding that the other side recognize its right to locate the boundaries of Israel wherever it chooses? Location, location, location.

    Alternatively, if the question of “Israel’s right to exist” is not specific but theoretical or ideological or even theological, is Israel asking that the other side become Zionists and join the WZO?

    BTW Hebrew in contrast to Arabic, including Palestinian-Arabic, became extinct as a medium of oral communication at roughly the beginning of the common era. Ivrit represents a reconstructed version of the language after a two thousand year hiatus and contains a substantial admixture of non-semitic, especially European, elements and words. If you want to advance a claim for racial-cultural purity and suggest that you are more Semitic than they, perhaps you should avoid the argument from language.

    led decades of attacks against Jewish civilians

    Likewise, unfortunately, Jews led attacks against Arab civilians as part of their ethnic cleansing of the land. If the Mufti allegedly had some role in the Holocaust, why then, as Norman Finkelstein points out, didn’t the Israelis arrest him and bring him to trial like Eichmann? The answer is that it’s just propaganda, the wish to tar the Arabs with the same brush as the Nazis. Apples and oranges.

  5. John Baker:
    You wrote:
    “Yes, but where exactly? In other words, isn’t Israel demanding that the other side recognize its right to locate the boundaries of Israel wherever it chooses?”
    Where are the LEGAL boundaries? That is the subject of debate. However, the only world body that may even endeavour to rule on such a dispute would be the United Nations Security Council and even that is debatable. Suppose, for instance, that you lived in San Diego, California and the U.N. Security Council decided one day that the southern most 500 miles of California legally belonged to Mexico. How would that sit with you? That is why I have earlier said that with reference to International Treaty Law, possession is 99%. Israel has a permanent peace treaty with both Egypt and Jordan. These are the ONLY other parties would could actually have a legal claim to Gaza and West Bank, respectively. Therefore, the word “occupation” is also a fallacy because “Palestine” is neither a legal nation or a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. One can not legally “occupy” a non-legal national entity.
    You continued:
    “Alternatively, if the question of “Israel’s right to exist” is not specific but theoretical or ideological or even theological, is Israel asking that the other side become Zionists and join the WZO?”
    I think you are trying to be clever and funny, which, in the sadist of twists, is actually an improvement.
    The “right to exist” within secure borders is a right of all members of the United Nations. Threatening to wipe a “member-nation” off the map, as the Hamas government and Iran have done is actually a violation of the United Nations Charter provisions. Recognition is slightly different, is it is a pro-active concept that can be withheld, without breaking any U.N. rules. Except for the fact that in 1991, Yasser Arafat agreed to this permanent recognition. In return, P.M. Rabin abrogated Israel’s legal longstanding rights to 37,000 sq. more miles of land, including West Bank, Gaza and what is now know as Jordan. So, if the Palestinian Authority wishes to breach its treaty (Oslo Accords) then Israel may be in a position to disavow its abrogation. Its all very foggy and cob-webular. However, there has never been a legal tribunal that ruled on the legitimacy of the various claims of the parties and it is likely that there never will be.
    Now you start getting nasty and spiteful again:
    “ . . . If you want to advance a claim for racial-cultural purity and suggest that you are more Semitic than they, perhaps you should avoid the argument from language.”
    It has absolutely nothing to do with “racial purity” and the Jews are the least racially “pure” anything in the world and everyone knows it, including yourself.
    It has to do with being culturally UNIQUE, not pure, not superior, not chosen.
    The Armenians are culturally unique, hence their own nation after WW1.
    The Kurds are culturally unique, hence their rights to their own nation (after WW1), which, in a close parallel to the Jews, have ever-since been denied them, as the cost of many of their lives. This denial cost them lives EXACTLY because they were culturally DIFFERENT from the surrounding peoples. Had they NOT been culturally different, Saddam would not have used poison gas on their towns.
    You propagandized:
    “Likewise, unfortunately, Jews led attacks against Arab civilians as part of their ethnic cleansing of the land.”
    No comparison. Not even close. Before 1947, virtually all the attacks against civilians were against Jews and not only in Palestine. In many other Arab countries. This is well documented. Please see: http://www.truthpeace.zoomshare.com/album/TruthPeace%2006-2006%20WANY%2c%20HIMMLER/images/8da776cea39cb740e9db9d7ba823dd82_11532256250/:album?css=/lib/style/type_album.css&css=/lib/style/couriernew.css
    After 1947, the Hebrews decided to start hitting back but even with the two deplorable acts of revenge against Arab towns, there was no practical comparison.
    You asked:
    “If the Mufti allegedly had some role in the Holocaust, why then, as Norman Finkelstein points out, didn’t the Israelis arrest him and bring him to trial like Eichmann?”
    The answer is that part of the deal struck between the “Zionists” and the various voting members of the United Nations was an end to the post WW2, war crimes trials. Essentially, the deal called for everyone to forgive and forget. Only a very few high-ranking Nazis were ever brought to trial. Do you seriously assert that these were the only ones guilty of documented war crimes? Thousands more got away and some very high ranking ones at that, such as Johan Von Leers, who was one of the original architects of the Holocaust, was directly under (his official junior) Joseph Gobbles and spent the final years of his life designing Nazi era propaganda with Arabic subtitles, as the honored guest of President Nasser (Egypt). Many other Nazis fled to South America with large amounts of plundered WW2 loot that was ultimately spent on weapons and oil, bought from the United States and delivered to the fascist despots who ran those states. So, when we hear: “No blood for oil” [Translation: only Jewish blood for oil”]. That’s also why the Swiss were so pissed off that they had to return Nazi era deposits to Jewish survivors, because, for the most part, they really DID NOT have that money. They just preferred to return it anyway, rather then reveal who they gave it to.
    Do some serious reading, would you?
    Start with Bernard Lewis, Joan Peters and Max Dimont. Then try Loftus and Aarons and for fill in, please see:
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths2/cover.html
    Information can benefit the uninformed, but I am not sure what can be done for someone who likes it that way.

  6. Israel / Judah / Judea was a proud nation that existed for 12 centuries

    Again, an argument based on historical continuity is not to your advantage. Well, two nations; not one. Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BCE and ceased to exist. Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians (or “the Arab Babylonians”?) in 586 BCE, also as the result of divine judgement, according to the Scriptures. Also your argument unfortunately demeans the two thousand year Jewish Diaspora, arguably the most significant period in the history of the Jewish people. This is also ironic considering that is a longer period of time during which the Jews were out of the land than we have evidence of their being in the land. BTW the Palestinian-Philistine connection is hardly “a total contrivance.” Rather it is one generally accepted among scholars on philological and historical grounds. The Palestinians have lived on their farms and orchards and in their same plots of land in many cases for centuries and centuries. They are very much a people (pace Golda Meir) with a distinctive culture (or sub-culture), history, language, etc. And my goodness, I do hope you realize that the recent unpleasantness about hunting witches was firmly rooted in the Puritans’ reading of Exodus 22:18. In general, I am very leery of arguments based in claims of cultural superiority.

  7. not pure, not superior

    Oh, sorry. Your patronizing tone misled me.

    So cultural uniqueness is the criterion for who deserves to have their own country? Do you recognize the right of the United States of America to exist? After all, we weren’t culturally distinct from our European cousins when our nation was founded.

    The Mufti was a Nazi collaborator. But so was Yitzhak Shamir and the “IZL in Israel.” Nothing came of either of either man’s attempted liasons with the Third Reich. One of them did become PM of Israel.

  8. John Baker:
    You stated:
    “So cultural uniqueness is the criterion for who deserves to have their own country? Do you recognize the right of the United States of America to exist? After all, we weren’t culturally distinct from our European cousins when our nation was founded.”
    John: You’re really beginning to sound desperate, or is it that you were desperate all along and I simply missed the warning signs? By the way, you turn what could be a part-time hobby (bloging herein) into a full time vocation.
    First of all, the “we” you refer to does not include my ancestors, who, had to be processed through an arbitrary immigration system. Its not their fault that the “puritans” wanted freedom to kill (and displace) Indians and own slaves. In the long term, those Indians and Blacks who survived now enjoy a multi-cultural society, which, in my view is one of the United State’s greatest achievements. But you have intentionally derailed the conversation with rhetoric. After WW1, the Arabs received their independence from Turkey. At that time, there was little (Arab) political resistance to a Jewish National Homeland of 45,000 sq. miles in size. The resistance then, as it is now, was the result of small pockets of ‘Pan-Arab’ nationalists, many of whom were even then influenced by a religious zealotry that transcended politics. The “Mufti” was just such a case, as was his successor, Yasser Arafat. The “Mufti” was more then a Nazi “collaborator”, he was an instigator. In a famous speech he made in 1941, he accused Mr. Adolph Hitler of being a ‘Jonnie-come-lately’ in this war against the Jews that he (Mr. Mufti) claimed personal credit for commencing, some 21 years earlier. I don’t know where you get your Nazi allegations about Shamir, other then his silly little mustache, which I could never figure out but, do you have any serious references on that allegation — other then, say, the Aryan Brotherhood of America’s official home page?
    Armenia was granted independence after WW1, due to their UNIQUE nature and they actually received their homeland, mainly for two reasons: 1) They had the support of the Christian nations (Armenians are Orthodox Christians) and; 2) They lost 4/5 of their population to genocide during the WW1 years. The Kurds were granted their independence but never received their homeland, mainly because they were NOT Arabs and also were sitting on a pile of oil wealth that their neighbors wanted to control.
    The Jews were also granted their legal independence after WW1, in the same set of international treaties, but did not achieve their homeland until they lost 40% of their population in WW2. And so that’s the way the world has worked, at least since the invention of International Treaty Law in the latter 1800’s.
    The subject we were discussing related to the necessity of the Palestinian Arabs to achieve their own, separate and distinct “homeland”. You asked if the Israelis were willing to grant this and I answered that they are and always have been. I continued by pointing out that such an independent state has little if any practical use, since the Palestinian-Arab people have no cultural or religious distinctness from their neighbors. My point was to reiterate my earlier post on this subject wherein I suggested that the best solution would be for Jordan and Egypt to expand their borders and incorporate the (now nearly lawless) P.A. sections of the West Bank and Gaza, thereby solving everyone’s problems, except, perhaps, their own. To counter my suggestion, you dragged in the founding of the USA. Which was NOT done under International Treaty Law, since it did not exist in the 16 and 1700’s. Lastly, your earlier post fully denied the Mufti’s Nazi allegiance and now, you have acknowledged it but claim some sort of ‘moral equivalency’ with this statement about Shamir. Which is it? Or will it always and eternally be both (and/or either) or all-of-the-above?

  9. you turn what could be a part-time hobby (bloging herein) into a full time vocation.

    I’ll yield to you the distinction of being the most conspicuous consumer of bandwidth. Everyone has a right to your opinion, of course.

    since it did not exist

    My point exactly. Neither does Palestine. By your reasoning, our own nation would not deserve statehood either, since we were in 1776, at least, culturally identical with other Englishmen, other Europeans. I mean, what would be the “practical use” of such a country? Again, I don’t think cultural uniqueness or whatever you want to call it makes a very good argument.

    No nation needs “a right to exist.” They either exist or they don’t, often coming into being through force of arms, as in the case of the United States. There is, of course, diplomatic recognition, which is optional. But that’s not what is being demanded of the Palestinians under the phrase “recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”

    your earlier post fully denied the Mufti’s Nazi allegiance

    I said nothing about allegiance. What I denied was that he had any significant role in the Holocaust, despite elaborate claims to the contrary by Dershowitz (not you). The truth is that the Mufti and Shamir were a couple of wannabe Nazi collaborators. Nazis and Arabs, apples and oranges.

  10. John Baker:
    You wrote:
    “I said nothing about allegiance. What I denied was that he [“Grand Mufti”] had any significant role in the Holocaust . . ”
    In Nov., 1942 Mr. Mufti stated:
    “Before the outbreak of this war and before the Axis took arms to put a stop to Anglo-Saxon Jewish greed, there was one nation which had fought alone against these forces for more than 20 years. The nation is our own Arab Nation.”
    He continued:
    “If God forbid, England should be victorious, the Jews would dominate the world. ENGLAND AND HER ALLIES WOULD DENY THE ARABS ANY FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE, WOULD STRIKE THE ARAB FATHERLAND TO ITS HEART AND WOULD TEAR AWAY PART OF IT TO FORM A JEWISH COUNTRY WHOSE AMBITION WOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO PALESTINE BUT WOULD EXTEND TO OTHER ARAB COUNTRIES. BUT IF, ON THE CONTRARY, ENGLAND LOOSES AND ITS ALLIES ARE DEFEATED, THE JEWISH QUESTION, WHICH FOR US CONSTITUTES THE GREATEST DANGER, WOULD DISAPPEAR, MILLIONS OF ARABS WOULD BE FREED, AND MANY MILLIONS OF MUSLIMS IN ASIA AND AFRICA WOULD BE SAVED.” [emphasis added through capitalization].
    Of course, in retrospect, its easy to see the magnitude of the false claims made by Mr. Mufti in 1942:
    ” . . WOULD DENY THE ARABS ANY FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE . . ”
    Geez. There are now over 500-M fully independent Arabs in the Mid East and only a few million can even CLAIM to have their “independence” inhibited, which itself is erroneous since the Jewish National Homeland has always been willing to accommodate such demands, if the Arabs would only agree to halt the attacks.
    ” . . WHOSE AMBITION WOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO PALESTINE BUT WOULD EXTEND TO OTHER ARAB COUNTRIES . . ”
    Such as . . . . say . . . the nation of: OOH-BA-DOO?
    ” . . . IF, ON THE CONTRARY, ENGLAND LOOSES AND ITS ALLIES ARE DEFEATED, THE JEWISH QUESTION, WHICH FOR US CONSTITUTES THE GREATEST DANGER, WOULD DISAPPEAR, MILLIONS OF ARABS WOULD BE FREED, AND MANY MILLIONS OF MUSLIMS IN ASIA AND AFRICA WOULD BE SAVED . . ”
    These millions of Arabs he speaks of had not yet (in 1942) been denied their freedom. Their denial of freedom actually started when the combined Arab nations cleared 750,000 of them out of the way, as to facilitate the destruction of Israel. They (and their children and grandchildren) have actually been denied their freedom for the past 60 years, by their fellow Arab host countries, who have been using them as hostages and pawns, in a global ‘jihad’. Interesting that Mr. Mufti, who had a direct role in the events of 1947-1948, could have forecast these future events so accurately. . . NOT! He forecast these events because he himself was later to engineer them and after him, this practice was continued by his nephew, Yasser Arafat.
    “. . . MANY MILLIONS OF MUSLIMS IN ASIA AND AFRICA WOULD BE SAVED.”
    Who, where? Perhaps he is speaking about those many millions of Asian Muslims, found in the (future) Islamic republics of Tibet, Singapore or North Korea.(???) Or Perhaps the slave-trafficking and genocidal ‘Janjaweeds’ of Northern Sudan were those who’s freedom he was protecting (???).
    Mr. Mufti also made it a point to boast of his advance knowledge of the 6-million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, years before such a mathematical tabulation was to be known, outside the inner circles of the Third Reich.
    You also wrote:
    “I’ll yield to you the distinction of being the most conspicuous consumer of bandwidth.”
    Though I DO NOT enjoy debating with those who do not provide references and trade in dis-logic, and merely rationalize AGAINST logic and reason, to the Nth degree. You know who you are.
    Have a nice daydream (I mean day).

  11. It’s all really incredibly simple, Mr. Farash. There is no mystery as to why the Mufti would be so alarmed and would say such things, and it has nothing whatever to do with anti-Semitism or Nazis. Zionist Jews from Europe had been confiscating the land of his people and ethnically cleansing the land for decades. These Zionists had the attitude typical of 19th century European colonialists. They regarded themselves as civilized and the indigenous people as barbarians and savages whose claim on the land was inconsequential and in the way of a higher purpose.

    The fundamental fault for the Arab-Israeli conflict lies with Israel. That is an ineluctable fact. Israel confiscated the land of the indigenous inhabitants (spare me any quotes from the fraud written by Joan Peters), so of course they strike back and commit all kinds of atrocities and say all kinds of terrible things. What do you expect? That’s exactly what Native Americans did under the same circumstances in this country in the face of the very same European encroachments and attitudes. It would be absurd to accuse them of being “anti-Caucasian” or “anti-Christian” fanatics. So, whatever the Arab response, it arose in the first instance from the confiscation and ethnic cleansing of those early days, from what the Zionists did; not because the Arabs were Nazis or anti-Semites.

  12. John Baker:
    You wrote:
    “Zionist Jews from Europe had been confiscating the land of his (Mufti’s) people and ethnically cleansing the land for decades.”
    The Mufti was NOT from Palestine. He was a Turkish military officer in WW1. As I understand it, the early “Zionists” had been PURCHASING their land and bribing the Turkish local officials (many of whom were also the owners) for the privilege, since it was illegal for Jews to move their under 400 year old Turkish-Ottoman law. By the way, the REAL Palestinian Arabs (from the turn of the 20th century) were quite fond of their Jews. The Jews made them rich by the standards that existed. Arabs had been people who were tied with Chinese coolies, for the title of lowest paid population on planet Earth and unlike the Chinese, who suffered from the economic effects of a vast over supply of people, the Arab population had no such explanation for why they often lived in tents with their goats inside. Don’t tell me, my grandfather came from Jerusalem. My family line goes back to days of Mr. Mohammed.
    You wrote:
    “These Zionists had the attitude typical of 19th century European colonialists. They regarded themselves as civilized and the indigenous people as barbarians and savages whose claim on the land was inconsequential and in the way of a higher purpose.”
    Nazi propaganda–more just like before. The European (mainly German and Austrian) Jews considered themselves superior to everyone, including Mid-East Jews, Sephardic Jews and Polish Jews. We got over it.
    You stated:
    “. . . spare me any quotes from the fraud written by Joan Peters”
    I will not. She did a very thorough job of research, including camping out at the Turkish ministry of records, for months at a time. Of course, you will say that the Turkish record ministry was ALSO a Zionist fraud.
    I think I am done with you. Tell it to the hand.

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